The Art Media Agency has published an interesting post with their summary of the history of design.
They cover the usual suspects—Bauhaus, modernism, Arts and Crafts movements, streamlining—and highlight the influence in Europe and the US of art and materials respectively, but perhaps what is most insightful is what you can read between the lines:
In the United States, the “industrial designer” profession appeared in the 1920s, in response to the emergence of mass consumption. Most of these designers, issued from the world of advertising and set design for theatre, appeared as the antithesis of their European peers, with their approach entirely devoid of political considerations and artistic concern.
What is interesting about this statement is the positioning of the designer as apart from politics—a stance that many would say holds through to this day. However, the implications beyond this have been documented. Streamlining and styling that led to ecological concerns (the Eamses’ promotion of fibreglass now has a different spin due to its toxicity, appliances designed for obsolescence through both fashion and function). the championing of materials that were American such as aluminium, the relentless 50s obsession with the clean and sterile referencing both the space race and health concerns via ‘the bomb’ … all of these nuances played a part in the designer’s work, whether they explicitly acknowledge them or not.